Margaret Sanger, "Magnetation Methods of Birth Control," [Aug 1915] .
Published Article. Source: Margaret Sanger Papers, Library of Congress, , Library of Congress Microfoilm 3:740 .
This pamphlet was the third in a series, including "English Methods of Birth Control," 1915 and "Dutch Methods of Birth Control," 1915. The Editors have omitted the section titled "Tested Theories and Practical Truths From Those Who Have Practiced This Method," which is testimony of individuals who have used the methods. Also omitted is the catalogue of the French Malthsian League.
In the previous pamphlets, “English Methods of Birth Control” and “Dutch Methods of Birth Control,” one finds a duplication of the methods given in the first pamphlet, “Family Limitation.” The French methods of Birth Control are so nearly the same that I have decided not to duplicate these again, but to give instead a list of the books and pamphlets issued by the French League, and, also cuts or pictures of some of the articles they have for sale at their headquarters, 27 Rue de la Duée, Paris. These will be found at the end of this pamphlet.
I also find that the methods used to control births in Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, India, Russia, and Japan have all been greatly influenced by the English and Dutch Neo-Malthusian League (the two oldest Leagues). To give further national methods would be only a waste of time and material, and would add nothing to what has already been given. This does not mean that there are not many other mechanical devices. There are numerous ones; but I still find that there is nothing better, safer, cheaper, or more convenient than the pessary mentioned in “Family Limitation.”
In France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Belgium, and Sweden there are strong Neo-Malthusian movements advancing the Birth Control theories by lectures, literature, and practical means. In Russia, Japan, India, and United States there have been recently feeble attempts to establish Birth Control movements; but as yet they have remained embryonic.
I have decided to close this series of pamphlets with the following explanation of the Magnetation method, and feel that I have said all that I can say of interest on Birth Control methods. I have gladly donated my mite toward what I consider to women’s economic, social, and sexual freedom.
Before closing this series of pamphlets on the practical methods of Birth Control, I feel in justice to the many readers and subscribers of the Woman Rebel who inquired about the theories of Magnetation, Male Continence, Sedular Absorption, Karezza, and Zugassent’s Discovery, that this series would not be complete without giving at least a general idea of these theories and their practice.
It is interesting to note that the magnetation theory had its best and longest practice, as well as its beginning, in America, under the title Male Continence. This method was practiced for over forty years by a group averaging 130 men and 150 women known as the Oneida Community. They occupied a part of the old reservation of the Oneida Indians in New York State, and lived in a harmonious and prosperous form of Communistic society. John Humphrey Noyes was the head and founder of the group. Through personal experience and prolonged study, he discovered the theory of male continence. Since that time many others have come forward with the same theory under various names. Almost without exception, each advocate has injected some kind of religion into it. The Oneida Community was particularly a religious sect, and Alice B. Stockham, the author of Karezza, was a fervent religionist. However, aside from this, there are fundamental truths in the theory which bear thinking about and should not be discarded without some consideration. In view of the thousands of testimonials of the healthful results of the practice of these theories, I present these methods like that of the others, and for convenience shall classify them all under one head, “Magnetation.”
There are thousands of men and women who object to the practical and mechanical means of Birth Control, who feel that the pessary, condom, and douche are gross and sordid, and take away the artistic and spiritual beauty of the act. It is those whom the magnetation method will interest most. There are others who will claim that this method is “not satisfying,” and can find no enjoyment in its practice. But so are there thousands of men and women who can pass a beautiful painting and receive no inspiration from it, or listen to a charming selection on a musical instrument and receive no emotion from it. So are there many whose natures are not so constructed that they can enjoy or benefit by this method. There is no doubt that the successful attainment of this method is dependable upon a fine spiritual bond between the two who enjoy its practice.
The advocates of the magnetation method ask you to first analyse sexual intercourse. They claim that you will recognise in it two distinct acts, i.e., the social (or amative) and the propagative. Those who practice the magnetation method content themselves with and prefer the social act, unless the procreative act is desired. It is usually held that the sexual organs have two distinct functions, viz., the urinary and the propagative. The advocates of the magnetation theory claim that the sexual organs have three distinct functions, viz., urinary, propagative, and amative--i.e., they are conductors firstly of urine, secondly of semen, and thirdly of social magnetism. Each one separate and distinct in itself.
The organs of propagation are physiologically distinct from the organs of union in both sexes. The testicles are the principal organs of reproduction in the male, and the uterus in the female. Sexual conjunction of male and female no more involves the discharge of semen than of the urine. The discharge of semen, instead of being the main act of sexual intercourse, is really the sequel and termination of it. Sexual intercourse pure and simple is the conjunction of the organs of union, and the interchange and flow of magnetic influences through that conjunction. The seminal discharge can be voluntarily withheld in sexual intercourse, or it can be produced without sexual intercourse, as in masturbation, which demonstrates the fact that the discharge of the semen, and the pleasure associated with its discharge, is not social, since it can be produced in solitude: it is a personal and not a social act.
The physiological analysis of the procreative act shows that the pleasure of the act is not produced by contact and interchange of life with the female, but by the action of the seminal fluid on the internal nerves of the male organ. The desire and that which satisfies it are both within the man, and may be obtained without sexual intercourse. The amative function, or the simple union of two persons, is a distinct and independent function, giving a medium of magnetic interchange superior to that gain through reproductive function. it is the presence of the seed abd not the absence of it that makes the bull superior to the ox, and it is the stimulating, retaining, and absorbing the semen in the man, and directing it into other creative channels, which make the amative act of greater benefit and more healthful and vitalising than the procreative act.
Most of us know that creative energy expressed through the sexual nature is an instinct to perpetuate life; that it has its origin in and is co-existent with life itself; that it is the power back of all purposes and plans; that it is the self-pushing force that gives the individual the ability and desire to do and to perform; that it is the impelling factor and inventive genius in all man’s handiwork. That this force operates in the multiplication of atoms and molecules, in the attraction of germ to sperm cells. The process of growth and fulfilment of functions is propelled by this energy, which is operative throughout all Nature. It is the force back of and expresses itself through the physical life of man and animal.
Atoms, cells, and plants are unconscious of this force, and animals are conscious of it only in a slight degree. But man is conscious of this energy, and is capable of developing a greater consciousness of it and of its operation and utilization to a remarkable degree. Like the engineer who masters the engine by his knowledge of its construction and the force that runs it, so can man master this creative energy and direct it where he wills. Creative life can be expressed in other ways beside parenthood.
Emerson says, “Work your passion up into poetry.” Passion is the sign of creative power; it is the voice of creative life. If it were understood and its powers realized, it would be elevated and worshipped instead of lowered and debased, as the Comstocks would have us do. As creative energy becomes understood and applied, men and women will grow in strength of character and in strength of love, and will naturally devote these powers to the interests and development of the human race.
Each of these theories involves sedular absorption through intercourse without culmination. No discharge is allowed, but by a superior control is retained, thereby making the act an amative (love) act, and uplifting it from an exhaustive, abrupt fertilizing function into a quiet magnetic charm, producing health and increased happiness.
The act of sexual intercourse has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Its beginning or first stage is simply the presence of the male organ in the female. The middle or second stage is a series of reciprocal motions. The end or third stage is the ejaculatory crisis, or the termination of the act. The advocates of male continence, Zugassent’s discovery, sedular absorption, and magnetation claim that the whole process up to the third stage is entirely voluntary and can be stopped at any point. It is compared to a stream in the three conditions of a fall, a course of rapids above the fall, and still water above the rapids. The boatman may decide if he will remain in still water or venture down the rapids, or run his boat over the fall. They contend that experience will teach him the wisdom of remaining where the rowing is easy, unless the object is worthy of going over the falls. Karezza advises to content onself with simple presence in the first stage until the magnetic thrill passes off. They are all similar and all aim at the same result. I head them under one method - "magnetation.”
Those who practice claim the highest possible enjoyment, with no loss of vitality and a perfect control of the fecundating power. Its practice greatly involves the art of love by a prolonged intercourse preventing that which puts an end to intercourse - the ejaculation. The seminal fluid, it is claimed, has an immense immanent value; and if kept in the system and magnetized, and reabsorbed by the blood, adds enormously to a man’s mental and magnetic force, which through the ordinary sexual act is constantly being expended. That its practice by some men will be difficult there can be no doubt; but it can be no more difficult or need a greater power of control than that required of the man in the act of “coitus interruptus” (withdrawal). Those who practice magnetation claim that it is far removed from “repelling asceticism”; that it gives ample exercise to the affections, and opportunity for the exchange of sexual magnetism; but that its greatest benefit is that its practice conduces to a higher love development. It is the attainment of this control that raises the sexual passion in man and woman to its proper place by the side of music and poetry.
The strongest objection which is put forth against its practice is that it is “unnatural”; that it is unauthorized by the examples of other creatures of the animal kingdom, and therefore must be wrong. But the answer comes that cooking, wearing clothes, and all modern life is far removed form natural living; and were we to remain in close adherence to Nature, we would go on all fours and remain dumb.
When we realize we are living in an age when nearly all departments of life have been greatly modified and advanced by recent discoveries of steam, electricity, the telephone, telegraphy, the microscope, and other agents of enlightenment, is it not surprising that there has been almost no discovery or improvement in the vital department of the sex relations? The explorer, the pioneer, the discoverer may pursue his way into every department of life, and return to lay his riches at the feet of Science, Art, or Invention; but woe to him who dares to explore that shaded valley of sex. No matter how pure the motive, or what agony and miseries one sought to alleviate, dungeons, persecutions, slanders, and jails await him who ventures to bring treasures from its hidden depths. Yet there is no other department of life which needs so much instruction and education as the sex department.
A healthful sexual stimulation has a beneficial effect on both men and women, especially when the loved one is accessible and some demonstration of sexual feeling allowed, as in the restrained yet ardent caresses of an affianced pair. Here we often see not only the happiest but the most productive and healthful period of a man’s life. It is said this is particularly true of man’s intellectual activities.
We see a year later this same happy pair experience a great falling off in their affection. Women have experienced this so often that they begin to hate the sexual relation, and look upon the act either with fear of pregnancy or with an unconquerable loathing. Of course, a great deal of this aversion which women experience is the result of their former training. The girl is taught before marriage that the act is a most degrading thing, and is told that it is the accomplishment of this one thing for which man desires her before marriage. Afterwards all is supposed to be changed. She is expected to have an entirely new philosophy as soon as the marriage certificate is in her hands. The average young man knows little of the art of love, and is consequently unably to beautify their relations or to teach her a new psychology. The first year is spent in secret misery on her side, and ruptures and misunderstandings between them both. The average woman will tell you she loves to be caressed and to express her affection for her husband, but could be quite satisfied without intercourse. This is especially true of the intellectual woman, who is acknowledging her lessening interest in the sex relation, and even repulses affectionate demonstration, fearing it must terminate in sexual intercourse (mainly the fear of pregnancy).
Surely this is something to be squarely faced by every intelligent man and woman, and serious enough to deserve our untiring interest. Something must be wrong. What is it? Does this theory offer a solution to any? It may. Nearly all women who practice it testify to its benefits, while few men complain of it. Those who do, say that to control the ejaculation to-day means a seminal loss later during sleep. The advocates, however, say this will occur at first, but after the organs become accustomed to their new functions this will wear off, and there will be no seminal loss.
All men in the Oneida community realized that this control was a necessary attainment if they would be regarded with favor by the women in the group. Its accomplishment was necessary to their mutual happiness, and they had to learn it. If there is a method which in practice expresses the highest mutual affection and reveals one’s own strength and power, then by all means let mankind know it.
There is no earthly reason why men and women should not study the laws of sex expression as any other science is studied, and it should be a study not only intellectual, but of experience and adjustment. If, as is claimed, the experience of this method must be practiced on a higher plane of thought than the purely physical, then certainly it must tend toward a finer companionship and understanding between men and women than the fleeting physical gratification prevailing at present. If there is anything which controverts the traditional uncleanliness previously attached to the sex relation, if there is anything which brings a blending of body and spirit or an ennoblement of the character of the individual, then by all means let us have it in its fullest detail, and let this revolting ignorance and prudery holding sway over men and women’s minds so long be swept away for all time. Let us have light, through discussion, experience, and adjustment.
There are few men who desire to expose the object of their affection to the burden of bearing children faster than her health will permit. They realize a woman’s strength is greatly undermined and her beauty and grace fast ebbing away; but ignorance and tradition have him in their grip. He knows nothing about the means to prevent it, and allows the one he loves best to wither and fade before his eyes.
It is especially necessary for the woman to be free from the mental dread of pregnancy. There is nothing so productive of nervous disorders or so likely to decrease the sexual attraction or magnetation as fear and anxious thought. Perfect confidence in the man’s ability to control himself is essential to the perfection and desired results of these methods. Just as one begins, so can one develop. Young men and women about to enter alliances and desirous to establish a lasting affection and higher bond between themselves can easily put this method into practice and control the sex functions. The more magnetic the individual, the greater the sex attractions between those two who love, and the stronger the bond will grow between them, through this “magnetation” method.
The expression and adjustment of all theories is so largely personal that special regulations can scarcely be given. The road to science and the great natural laws are discovered through experience: there is no education but that of experience.
Copyright 2003. Margaret Sanger Project